Bananas and the blues
By Scott Anthony
Maybe it’s the weather, coldness for days on end, or the email from a friend about losing his sweet dog to cancer. On Monday there was the funeral I attended, where the sun broke through just in time to light the tiny Kent cemetery and punctuate the melancholic moments of that service. Or it could be the walk I took the next afternoon through the wrecking yard searching for a truck part, soaked through by returning downpours, those terribly torn up vehicles the result of some awful collision, but altogether, I was feeling pretty down.
I am normally a fairly buoyant guy. So the logical portion of my alleged brain collected those moments to help explain the mild, but overarching depression that had settled over me.
In the pile of mail at home I found a health magazine that offered tips on dealing with depression, and though I had already self-diagnosed by the reasons above, I read the article inside.
The story listed the common causes. What happens in our environments, ie., domestic disputes, loss of job or the death of a loved one. Financial difficulties and weather changes are high on the list, as is simple lack of control in day to day affairs.
Psychological and biological causes come next and physical illness is closely related, with heredity and hormonal changes sometimes being part of a typical diagnosis.
Flipping forward in the article, I found the recommended treatments that are promoted for treating depression. Zoloft ( my brother tried it, did not react well to it) St. John’s Wort (Mrs. A actually has some of this in her cache of herbs and swears by it) Coffee ( studies show that it has an antidepressant effect, but I would suspect those studies may have been financed by Howard Schultz), and finally, bananas.
I like bananas. Ask anybody at Trader Joes. The article suggested that bananas contain tryptophan, a protein that converts to the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is instrumental in facilitating relaxation. Low levels of serotonin are believed to cause mood disorders including depression.
In the course of writing this column, I dropped the magazine, went to the kitchen and grabbed one of the yellow fruits from the hanging basket. After I wolfed it down, I went to the computer to learn more about bananas.
Turns out that they can do quite a lot. High iron content helps with anemia, potassium counters the effects of high salt diets on the bones and lessens the risk of stroke, the fiber is good for regularity and the B vitamins have a calming effect on the nervous system. Bananas can even help with ugliness, (I’m listening) with cosmetic companies around the world using them in mass quantities in exfoliating masks, hair conditioners and skin lotions.
This is neat, and it gets even neater. The revered Japanese poet Basho is named after the Japanese word for a banana tree. The "basho” planted in his garden by a grateful student became a source of inspiration to his poetry, his life and home. A New Zealand minister named Ray Comfort uses the banana as a proof of the existence of a God. Comfort argues that since it is easily held, it’s color is a ripeness indicator, it is easily peeled and has a biodegradable wrapper and is nutritious must mean that it was designed. Minister Comfort says this designer is the Christian God.
There is a lot of humor associated with bananas too. As early as 1906, a comedy record featured a popular character of the time named Cal Stewart, who explained his feelings about slipping on a discarded banana peel by saying:
“I don't think much of a man what throws a bananer peelin' on the sidewalk, and I don't think much of a bananer what throws a man on the sidewalk, neither. ... my foot hit that bananer peelin' and I went up in the air, and come down ker-plunk, and fer about a minnit I seen all the stars what 'stronomy tells about, and some that hain't been discovered yit. Wall jist as I was pickin' myself up, a little boy come runnin' cross the street and he said, "Oh mister, won't you please do that agin? My mother didn't see you do it."
Hmm…I think I’m feeling better.